Like a single vase on a bare coffee table, a single compliment has the power to brighten our whole day. It has the same power in the lives of our teens. The trick is to be understated, even offhanded in your delivery.
Last week when my co-teacher and I were chatting in the doorway and Chad had to walk between us to get in the classroom, he ducked and said, “Excuse me.” Though I was mid-sentence I said, “Hey, nice manners” and went back to my conversation. He flashed an appreciative smile from his desk.
When a table of students passed out the science books without waiting to be reminded, I said, “Way to be prepared!” To the student who loaned her pencil before I could offer one from my lost and found, I said, “That was thoughtful!”
Sometimes I’m more intentional, like when I sought out Taylor and told her that our choir accompanist had specifically asked if she and her strong voice would be returning to choir this year. “Well, that makes me feels special!” was her response.
One way to deliver a teen-acceptable compliment is to begin with the words “I noticed. . .” Just toss it out there: “I noticed you put your dishes in the sink.” “I noticed you started your homework already.” Don’t make it too big a deal – and by all means resist the temptation to be manipulative or negative, as in, “I noticed you did the dishes without being asked. It’s about time you grew up and took some responsibility around here.”
Sometimes I realize I haven’t been paying enough compliments. The other night my husband handed our son some papers that had been missing. “Thanks for finding those, Dad,” he said. I went to him later and complimented him on his respectful attitude of gratitude instead of the snide humor he sometimes uses. “Are you being sarcastic, Mom?” he asked. Ouch. I’d better practice what I preach.